Pallavi Pinakin elaborates on how to be productive and healthy in the office

How many hours a day do you spend at work – seven, nine or more? With the amount of time today’s professionals spend at their desks, half an hour at the gym isn’t enough to guarantee good health.

Your office routine can affect your wellbeing in many ways – whether you’re staring endlessly at your computer, stressing out about deadlines, gorging on junk food or rushing from meeting to meeting at such a pace that you forget to eat altogether!

The impact of these poor habits is evident. Take a look at your friends and colleagues, and you’ll find an increasing number of health issues among them regardless of their age. Backaches, digestion issues, weight gain, vision problems, mood swings and fatigue, the complaints are endless and they’re only getting worse.

Fortunately, this is a trend that isn’t too difficult to reverse. Introducing a few positive habits at the workplace can do wonders for your health – physical, mental and emotional. A small change here, a tweak there… and voila, you’ve created a healthier, happier routine for yourself.

Experts recommend easing into this. Start with one new habit, stick to it for a month, then introduce another and so on. And here are four recommendations for a healthier workday.

KEEP MOVING In recent years, the risks of a sedentary lifestyle have been seen more clearly. They include obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although sitting is supposed to be the new smoking, most workplaces haven’t yet adapted to this finding. Standing desks are few and far between, and the use of workout facilities during the day is mostly confined to startups.

Here’s how you can break out of the sitting rut. Set regular reminders on your device to do stretches in your chair or take a quick walk around the premises. If you need to confer with a colleague, suggest a ‘walking meeting’ instead of a sit-down chat. When you receive a call on your mobile phone, seize the chance to stretch your legs and take the call outside.

RESET THE BRAIN In their book titled ‘Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy,’ Bonnie St. John and Allen Haines offer useful tips to combat spikes in workday stress. When confronted with a challenge, our brains are hardwired to go into disaster mode and start panicking. To prevent this mental hijacking, you need to reset your brain.

Deep breathing is a reliable soother. However, as the authors emphasise, it’s crucial to get this right because shallow breathing can make matters worse! Relax in a comfy spot and take deep breaths that expand your abdomen. A minute or two of that will bring your mind back to its natural rhythm. Fragrances in the form of sachets, essential oils or tea bags are suitable for your health arsenal in the office. Examples include lemon (calms and clarifies), pine (lowers anxiety), vanilla (uplifts mood) and jasmine (eases depression).

STAY NOURISHED This recommendation sounds unrealistic to most busy young professionals. Eating healthily requires planning and effort, which means it’s time-consuming unless you can afford to outsource the responsibility.

It can also be expensive especially if you want to use organic produce or trendy superfoods. But the fact is that even with limited time and money, you can make changes for the better – and remember, it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.

An easy way to keep your energy levels up all day is to have a stock of ready-to-eat nutritious snacks like fresh fruit and nuts in the office.

When you head out with colleagues, try simple swaps – for instance, opt for coconut water instead of a cup of coffee with sugar.

Start bringing lunch from home once a week and see if it’s possible to gradually increase the frequency. Place a bottle of water on your desk and take a few sips every time you see it (hydration is key to maintaining optimal energy and focus).

TIME TO WORK One of the biggest indirect causes of work related stress is poor attention management. Some tasks like administration, paperwork and so on are easy to do on autopilot. But others like analysis and creativity call for higher order skills.

When your focus is scattered, the timeliness and quality of your output suffers and causes anxiety, which makes it even more difficult to work!

One way to break out of this vicious cycle is to set aside some time each day for ‘deep work.’ Put your smartphone on silent mode, close your door or wear your headphones and settle in for an hour of intense work. You’ll notice that you’re able to work faster and better when there are no distractions or interruptions.

A boost in productivity is a huge advantage for your health as it reduces stress, increases contentment and allows you to go home on time – now that’s a motivator!